It is through an acquaintance that I meet Narender, the pointsman of one of Delhi's biggest pimps. He fixes an appointment for Friday, 8.30 pm, at a five-star restaurant. Rita, he says, is a "good girl from a respectable family and speaks English. She is a favourite with many of my clients". Even as we speak, Narender's mobile keeps ringing. It's one enquiry after another.
The trade has grown in Delhi because, as the capital, it is here that major deals are brokered. And politicians and bureaucrats need to be entertained. Also, there is a lot of money floating around. Clients, ranging from the retail shopkeeper in Connaught Place to restaurant owners in Rohini and real estate developers in Gurgaon, are all willing to splurge. To service them, a number of guest houses have come up which double up as brothels. In south Delhi, the trade is run from respectable residential colonies. And farmhouses hired for sexual orgies have been the targets of police raids.
In one such swoop last month, three women and five pimps were arrested from a farmhouse in Vasant Kunj, in southwest Delhi. One of the women, an economics graduate from Bangalore, used to spend about 15 days a month in the capital and earned up to Rs 1.5 lakh in that time. All the three women, aged 18-21, charged anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 a night and their clients were businessmen and lawyers.
Outlook's investigations show that upmarket prostitution thrives in the capital—the 15 raids undertaken by the police last month are an index.Take Queen Bee (QB to the trade). She operates out of Greater Kailash, an upscale residential area. QB is one of the biggest suppliers of girls with a wide network. She not only provides "good" Indian girls but also keeps Moroccan women in her house. Arrested in a raid in the early '90s at a five-star hotel, QB's network today has the backing of both influential politicians and businessmen.
Says a cop: "It will take a lot to bust her, given her links." According to those who have dealt with QB, who works strictly on references, she rakes in close to Rs 3 lakh a day. The asking rate for any of the girls, say clients, is in the range of Rs 30,000-35,000 for a night.
Also operating in Delhi is an out-of-work Bollywood actress linked to a Pakistani gentleman. Under her wing are seven to eight TV starlets. With their acting careers having taken a dip, many have turned to the trade. According to pimps, the demand for big-name sexual partners is high among bureaucrats and politicians.
One woman picked up by the police in a recent raid is Nivedita, a 25-year-old junior executive of a Delhi-based firm. She was first noticed at a lounge bar in Gurgaon by a pimp. Impressed by her looks and personality, he broke her into the profession.But she is selective about her clients. "If I don't like the guy I call it off," she says. Weekend outings fetch Nivedita anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000. Besides, clients often shower her with expensive gifts.
The number of Niveditas in the capital is growing by the day. At the high end, the call-girl racket in Delhi involves teenagers, out-of-work models, glam girls and foreigners who hustle blatantly. "The large number of upmarket girls to choose from is incredible. For the right price and with the right references, you can get whatever you want," says Rohit Uberoi, one of the capital's well-known pimps.
The arrest of Rohini, 29, and an 18-year-old girl last month from a five-star hotel was revealing. The two ran a racket that serviced the rich and the powerful. Rohini drove a Skoda and had a snooty south Delhi address. Her 18-year-old partner was educated in one of the city's respectable schools. Says assistant commissioner of police, Dr Joy Tirkey, credited with busting their operation: "The two maintained an exclusive portfolio of customers, operated through mobile phones and came from good families". Investigations further revealed that Rohini charged about Rs 25,000 a night. She confessed to the police that she was running the business to support her lavish lifestyle.
So how does the business operate? According to DCP Dinesh Bhatt, "It is all very well- organised with pimps and a support system." Typically, scouts are sent out to places frequented by the young. The proliferation of pubs and lounge bars in the city and its outskirts has helped. It is here that new recruits are identified. "Hit the right place and the right crowd and you will find that there are women who don't mind making money and having fun," says Rajat Prasad, who recruits women for the trade.
Once on the pimp's list of girls, business is transacted over mobile phones. The rendezvous is normally at a five-star, a guest house owned by the client or even his residence. According to the police, most of the pimps entertain calls from only those who have been referred to by a client. This keeps the transaction private and restricted to a select circle.
But not all of the trade is as secretive. A case in point is Satbir Singh alias 'professor'. He had nine foreigners, mostly from Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, operating out a three-star hotel in the commercial hub, Karol Bagh. Singh is still absconding and enjoys the patronage of a heavyweight Haryana politician. Police suspect that since he owns three other hotels in the area, his take from the trade would be in the vicinity of Rs 10-15 lakh a day.
To the five-star call girls add the growing number of massage parlours, escort and dating services. All these are nothing but euphemisms for sex-shops. City newspapers are full of classifieds advertising their services. A few weeks ago 'parlour don' Sushil Kumar was arrested. An engineering graduate and an IAS aspirant, Sushil decided to get into the flesh trade along with three friends. Within a year they opened nine parlours in the city.
Also on the police watch list is the infamous Kanwaljeet, who once had the dubious sobriquet of being the king of the city's prostitution racket. He moved out to Mumbai when the heat was turned on him. But even now his writ runs through his two former wives, say the police. His underlings, Menon and Vimal, have since branched out on their own.
The police admit that cracking down on prostitution rings is often a futile exercise since these resurface in no time. As it is a bailable offence, women nabbed are let off by the courts and are back in business. Says Bhatt, "It's a social evil and raids are no solution. Legalising the trade may have a far better effect."
But politicians would not want to give the legal stamp to the world's oldest profession. So the trade flourishes, as a reluctant police force goes through the motions of raids and arrests.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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